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Plastic bag ban plan gets recycled

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Evanston aldermen sent a proposed ban on single-use plastic shopping bags back to committee Monday night after several opponents and no supporters turned out to speak on the issue.

Dick Peach, 1414 Greenleaf St., told aldermen that in his west side neighborhood there's a lot of problems with paper trash — bags, cups, all sorts of other stuff. But plastic bags, Peach said, are not much of a problem.

Peach, a former president of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, said 52 businesses in Evanston would be affected by the ban — which would exempt non-chain businesses but include franchises.

He said one business that would be affected is Harold's Hardware on Central Street, because it has a franchise agreement with a hardware distributor.

Harold's, Peach said, pulled all its conventional plastic bags and went to recyclable ones during the last debate about banning bags. And now those bags, Peach said, would be banned under the proposed ordinance.

Peach said education efforts, encouraging people to recycle and use reusable bags, would be a much better approach than a ban.

Jim Nelson, who gave his address as Forest Avenue, said he worked for various industrial firms on waste management issues. "I was up to my eyeballs in solid waste issues for a long time," he says.

He called the ban "a feel-good initiative that really won't do much."

Nelson said most reusable bags are made in China — which has some of the worst environmental problems in the world and that using more of those bags wouldn't help the environment overall.

Jeanne Lindwall.

Jeanne Lindwall, of 625 Library Place, said the city hasn't done any outreach to the business community or other groups — so introducing the ordinance was premature.

She also argued that the city lacks good baseline data to even know how many disposable plastic bags are being used here.

And she said the Chicago ordinance on which the proposed Evanston one is based, "is poorly drafted and has a lot of issues." For example, she said, it calls for using compostable bags — but there's no recycling facility in the area for those.

Just because Chicago did it doesn't mean it's right for Evanston, Lindwall said.

She also argued that city departments have more important things to do than try to enforce a ban on plastic bags.

Betty Sue Ester, 2031 Church St., says the ordinance would inconvenience many people.

And Rosemary O'Neill, 2044 Sheridan Road, said there are many more important things for the council to address. "File it away and recycle it," O'Neill said.

In addition to the public comments, Jonathan Perman, a lobbyist for the American Progressive Bag Alliance an association of plastic bag manufacturers, had been working behind the scenes to persuade alderman that in-store recycling of bags is a better solution than a ban.

Perman also argued that data from the Environmental Protection agency shows that plastic shopping bags make up only about half a percentage point of the municipal waste stream in the United States.

Most aldermen managed to avoid staking out their own position on the bag ban at Monday night's meeting.

But Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said she wants to "get rid of these awful bags that litter our streets," while Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she "doesn't like the ordinance."

It was not entirely clear after Monday's vote whether some form of a bag ban ordinance would be likely to re-emerge from the Administration and Public Works Committee, or only a proposal for additional environmental education efforts.

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